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Subject: An argument about ethical behaviour rss

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Lajos
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(1) Ethical behaviour is behaviour that is inherently good.

(2) ‘Inherently good’ means ‘good in itself’, not ‘good because of something else’. Therefore ‘inherently good’ is non-reducible.

(3) Therefore, behaviour that is good because of something else is not ethical behaviour. Rather, it is rule-following behaviour. Reducing ‘inherently good’ reduces ethical behaviour to mere rule-following.

(3a) Behaviour that is good because some god says so is not ethical behaviour, but rule-following behaviour. (Rejection of relgious morality.)

(3b) Behaviour that is good because it leads to the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people is not ethical behaviour, but rule-following behaviour. (Rejection of common variant of non-religious morality.)

(3c) Behaviour that is good because it is most useful for a given goal in the given circumstances is not ethical behaviour, but rule-following behaviour. (Rejection of common variant of non-religious morality.)

(3d) Behaviour that is good because it conforms to a common standard is not ethical behaviour, but rule-following behaviour. (Rejection of ‘automatic’ (cultural) morality.)

(4) If ‘inherently good’ is non-reducible, there can be no (objective) ground for ‘inherently good’. Therefore, what is ‘inherently good’ is subjective.

(4a) Everyone who wishes to behave ethically, must determine for him/herself what is ‘inherently good’.
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Chad Ellis
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My problem with this is that it isn't an argument; it's a definition, written in the form of an argument. You define ethical behavior as inherently good and then define inherently good as subjective.

Many theists would argue that one should obey God, not because of rule-following but because God's will is inherently good.

Utilitarians would argue that one should behave in order to maximize happiness and minimize suffering, not because it's rule-following but because that is what inherently good means.

Rather than challenge either of these viewpoints, you have dismissed them as rule-following.
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Henry
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Lajos wrote:
Therefore, what is ‘inherently good’ is subjective.
...
Everyone who wishes to behave ethically, must determine for him/herself what is ‘inherently good’.

So if my standard for "inherently good" is stabbing people then, by your definition, I'm behaving ethically when I stab you? That's kind of messed up.
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reductio ad absurdum
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Ken
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You're argument falls down at point 1. There is no "inherently good," at least so far as human behaviors are concerned. There is behavior that conforms to a set of moral and ethical principles or fails to do so. Whether those principles are religious in nature or not, the decision regarding their application is always a matter of personal choice and interpretation.

Thus "inherently good" can't be "inherent" because it will always be determined individually, whether the person making the the determination is religious or not.
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Born To Lose, Live To Win
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perfalbion wrote:
You're argument falls down at point 1. There is no "inherently good," at least so far as human behaviors are concerned. There is behavior that conforms to a set of moral and ethical principles or fails to do so. Whether those principles are religious in nature or not, the decision regarding their application is always a matter of personal choice and interpretation.

Thus "inherently good" can't be "inherent" because it will always be determined individually, whether the person making the the determination is religious or not.


and, by making "inherently good" subjective, it becomes "rule following". When an individual decides what is "inherently good", they are applying rules to define it according to their life experience and culture. This ends up breaking the definition.

The only way there can be an "inherently good" is if there was a universal ethic that was defined outside of our decision process that was actually a natural law.
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J
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Joe Dirt: Well, I see you got those snakes and sparklers. But where's the good stuff man?

Kickin' Wing: Good stuff? This is the good stuff, snakes and sparklers.

Joe Dirt: Are you nuts dude? You need stuff that'll explode. Go *boom*!

Kickin' Wing: Why is that good?

Joe Dirt: Well, huh, might as, might as well ask why is a tree good? Why is the sunset good? Why are boobs good?
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Isaac Citrom
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Lajos, you invent a very restricitive defintion of ethics based on your own personal notions and so work the paraneters that only your own conclusion is possible. You've in a single post excluded literally millenia's worth of philosohpy.

As a starting point, you may want to define what it is we mean by ethics. Rgis exercise generally results in a definition of what one ought to do. This in itsefl needs more more.

Just as an example, Chad rightly points out that the Utilitarian school of thought speaks exactly to one of your points that exclides it a priori. Utilitarianism basically says that what one ought to do is what creates the most good/benefit for the most people.

Lajos, you immediately touch upon notions of right/wrong, good/bad, a priori/a posteriori knowledge and ought to. There's a lot of work to be done there before you even get to Ethics proper.
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Drew1365 wrote:

One brief example: I'm not sure how ethical it would be for me to go punch my neighbor in the head, but it would sure do him some good.


Exactly! Because when he swears out the complaint against you and you get convicted of battery and have to pay even more money to the government that you despise? That will be funny.
 
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Ben Foy
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Ok people, try to understand what Lajos is saying before you criticize it. He is talking about each person's personal philosophy vs rules placed on each person.
 
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Ben Foy
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Lajos, its not that simple. The example usually given is the person who thinks its 'good' to torture and kill people because of their race, religion, culture, sex, sexual orientation, etc...
 
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William Boykin
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Quote:
Ethics (also referred to as moral philosophy) is that study or discipline which concerns itself with judgments of approval and disapproval, judgments as to the rightness or wrongness, goodness or badness, virtue or vice, desirability or wisdom of actions, dispositions, ends, objects, or states of affairs. There are two main directions which this study may take.

It may concern itself with a psychological or sociological analysis and explanation of our ethical judgments, showing what our approvals and disapprovals consist in and why we approve or disapprove what we do.

Or it may concern itself with establishing or recommending certain courses of action, ends, or ways of life as to be taken or pursued, either as right or as good or as virtuous or as wise, as over against others which are wrong, bad, vicious, or foolish. Here the interest is more in action than in approval, and more in the guidance of action than in its explanation, the purpose being to find or set up some ideal or standard of conduct or character, some good or end or summum bonum, some ethical criterion or first principle.

In many philosophers these two approaches are combined. The first is dominant or nearly so in the ethics of Hume, Schopenhauer, the evolutionists, Westermarck, and of M. Schlick and other recent positivists, while the latter is dominant in the ethics of most other moralists.


http://www.ditext.com/runes/e.html

(Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Dagobert D. Runes

Your first premise ignores that there is a great division in the approach towards ethics, as mentioned above.

Basically, there are two ideas of 'ethics'. One argues that Ethical action=Good. Another argues that Ethical Action => Good. There is a difference- one argues for the existence of firm 'moral values' about which one can base their behavior- the other argues that there are rules that one follows that if they play the 'game' correctly will lead TOWARDS good actions.

This, of course, is a simplified version. Its actually a lot more complicated.

Darilian
*popping open a beer, passing it to GAWD*
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Chad Ellis
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BFoy wrote:
Ok people, try to understand what Lajos is saying before you criticize it. He is talking about each person's personal philosophy vs rules placed on each person.


I don't think anyone missed that.
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Ben Foy
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
BFoy wrote:
Ok people, try to understand what Lajos is saying before you criticize it. He is talking about each person's personal philosophy vs rules placed on each person.


I don't think anyone missed that.


Hmmm, then why are we seeing such a hostile response (in my view). Maybe Lajos is interested in a philosophical discussion but isn't an expert. Castigating him discourages any discourse. Clearly Lajos' definition needs to be refined, we should help him do that not dismiss what he is saying out of hand.
 
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Ben Foy
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Drew1365 wrote:
MisterCranky wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:

One brief example: I'm not sure how ethical it would be for me to go punch my neighbor in the head, but it would sure do him some good.


Exactly! Because when he swears out the complaint against you and you get convicted of battery and have to pay even more money to the government that you despise? That will be funny.


I was thinking more about how he's abandoned his wife and children to go shack up with some trollop half his age.


The community should make its displeasure known.
 
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William Boykin
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The problem is that his definition means that he gets the result he wants.

Unfortunately, his definition is flawed.

Therefore, he doesn't make a Prima Facie case. (Ie- it doesn't stand on its own merits at the time of presentation/ "At first glance" in debate jargon.)

Affirmitive (Lajos) fails to make their case. Therefore, you (all of y'all who are reading/critiqueing his work) must vote Negative (reject it).

Now, if he expanded his basic case to say WHY his definition of ethics is the 'best'/'most appropriate' then he might be able to make his case Prima Facie.

Darilian

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Ben Foy
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Whoa! Now I know the crowd is hostile when Legal standards are applied to an attempt at having a philosophical discussion.

Also remember that Lajos is a math geek, so don't make assumptions based on his presentation.
 
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Chad Ellis
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BFoy wrote:
Chad_Ellis wrote:
BFoy wrote:
Ok people, try to understand what Lajos is saying before you criticize it. He is talking about each person's personal philosophy vs rules placed on each person.


I don't think anyone missed that.


Hmmm, then why are we seeing such a hostile response (in my view). Maybe Lajos is interested in a philosophical discussion but isn't an expert. Castigating him discourages any discourse. Clearly Lajos' definition needs to be refined, we should help him do that not dismiss what he is saying out of hand.


For the most part I don't see any hostility. For my part, I tried to explain exactly where I thought he'd gone wrong and why; no hostility or dismissal intended.
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William Boykin
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Not legal, just CEDA.

(Cross Examination Debate Association).

I'm not hostile, per se, but think he stretches an interesting hypothesis (the idea that all we have are 'subjective' ethical systems) way too far. The fact that we don't have 'knowledge' of objective claims for ethical behavior doesn't mean that they don't, NECESSARILY, exist.

Its the fact that he is arguing that ALL that can exist is subjective ethics, by overcounting the epistemological difficulties that modern Ethics faces today. The fact that Ethics is 'stuck', right now, doesn't mean we should just give up the effort entirely (as the literary critics would argue, in their attempt to supplant ethics with rhetoric and aesthetics).

Darilian
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Ben Foy
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Darilian wrote:
Not legal, just CEDA.

(Cross Examination Debate Association).


The key word is 'debate'. I think Lajos wanted a discussion. If you look at the initial responses, most are dismissive. That said, I thought your criticisms have been very constructive. If I ever want to know anything about Philosophy, I will geekmail you.

Darilian wrote:
I'm not hostile, per se, but think he stretches an interesting hypothesis (the idea that all we have are 'subjective' ethical systems) way too far.


Clearly. BTW, I never considered your responses hostile, which is why I thumbed some of them. But overall, the responses have been overly critical, IMO.
 
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Ken
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BFoy wrote:
Ok people, try to understand what Lajos is saying before you criticize it. He is talking about each person's personal philosophy vs rules placed on each person.


Hmmm. I thought the responses were a reasonable critique of the argument laid out, myself. If there was something he was aiming for, context probably would have helped.

Why do you think the folks that replied didn't understand?
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Isaac Citrom
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I generally at least hit Wikipaedia before making involved claims so that I at minimum have a basic understanding of what I'm talking about. As a rule of thumb, I assume I'm not the first to have thought of something and try and find out what the current state of thinking is on the matter.

Making things up on my own forces everyone else to first correct my erroneous assumptions even before a debate on merits is even attempted. It's tedious for everyone.
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
My problem with this is that it isn't an argument; it's a definition, written in the form of an argument.

Indeed. Actually, initially I number the first two points as 'def. 1' and 'def. 2', but that seemed a bit superfluous. It's still an argument though, it's an argument following from those two definitions.

Chad_Ellis wrote:
Many theists would argue that one should obey God, not because of rule-following but because God's will is inherently good.

Utilitarians would argue that one should behave in order to maximize happiness and minimize suffering, not because it's rule-following but because that is what inherently good means.

Rather than challenge either of these viewpoints, you have dismissed them as rule-following.

No, I merely showed - albeit indirectly - that all of these positions are mere matters of definition.
The theist and utilitarian positions follow from redefining 'good', just like the argument I presented above. However, I chose to take the position that 'good' cannot be defined in terms of something else.
I 'chose' that position by the way, because the argument in the OP may not be my personal view, just an argument I wish to defend for now.

hjo3 wrote:
So if my standard for "inherently good" is stabbing people then, by your definition, I'm behaving ethically when I stab you? That's kind of messed up.

That would be a consequence indeed.
The problem is that I do not see any objective reason why that would be any more messed up than when you stab (or otherwise attempt to kill) someone because your god / government tells you so.

perfalbion wrote:
You're argument falls down at point 1. There is no "inherently good,"

That is actually very much the point I'm making. Saying that there is no 'inherently good' is pretty much the same as saying that 'inherently good' is irreducible and therefore subjective.

perfalbion wrote:
There is behavior that conforms to a set of moral and ethical principles or fails to do so. Whether those principles are religious in nature or not, the decision regarding their application is always a matter of personal choice and interpretation.

Indeed. (I would regard this too as an alternative way of expressing the point I was trying to make.)

perfalbion wrote:
Thus "inherently good" can't be "inherent" because it will always be determined individually, whether the person making the the determination is religious or not.

You seem to interpret 'inherent' as some kind of objective quality. That's probably where the seeming (!) disagreement between us originates. Part of my point is that 'inherent' cannot be objective, because it implies irreducibility and therefore unconfirmability.
Hence, I think that we mostly agree, except in our chosen terminologies.

TheChin! wrote:
and, by making "inherently good" subjective, it becomes "rule following". When an individual decides what is "inherently good", they are applying rules to define it according to their life experience and culture. This ends up breaking the definition.

People are not slaves to their cultures and experiences. Human beings have the faculty of reason. By the definitions given above, following the rules you set for yourself should not be considered 'rule-following'. I understand that that sounds contradictory, but keep in mind that in the context of this argument 'rule-following behaviour' was defined as behaviour that is 'good because of something else'.

It follows that people can only behave ethically if they use their reason to free themselves from cultural imprints and decide for themselves what is 'good' and what is not. Whether that is possible at all, and if it is, whether many people are able to do that, lays beyond the scope of the argument, but would be rather interesting questions, nevertheless.

TheChin! wrote:
The only way there can be an "inherently good" is if there was a universal ethic that was defined outside of our decision process that was actually a natural law.

It wouldn't be 'inherent' then. You're reducing 'good' to natural law and 'inherent' is irreducible.

isaacc wrote:
Lajos, you invent a very restricitive defintion of ethics based on your own personal notions

I wouldn't say they're 'my own personal notions'. I'm just arguing a point here, whether it is entirely mine is besides the issue.

isaacc wrote:
You've in a single post excluded literally millenia's worth of philosohpy.

Yeah, I know. I work at a philosophy faculty.

isaacc wrote:
As a starting point, you may want to define what it is we mean by ethics.

No.
My argument is not about 'ethics'. That field is much broader than what I tried to cover with this argument. I chose the term 'ethical behaviour' on purpose and took as my starting point a rather common interpretation of what 'ethical behaviour' is.

isaacc wrote:
Lajos, you immediately touch upon notions of right/wrong, good/bad, a priori/a posteriori knowledge and ought to. There's a lot of work to be done there before you even get to Ethics proper.

I know, but I don't even want to get to ethics proper (although meta-ethics can be interesting at times). I do not see much use in trying to discuss ethics proper at BGG. Instead, I tried to take a more common (non-technical) notion of ethical or moral behaviour as my starting point and build an argument on that with the intention to show that it's all a matter of definitions. (As implied above, the point of the argument may not be explicitly in the argument itself.)

Darilian wrote:
Your first premise ignores that there is a great division in the approach towards ethics, as mentioned above.

Again, my argument is not about 'ethics' but about a rather strictly defined notion of 'ethical behaviour'. This notion, as expressed in (1) is pretty much what the layman thinks ethical or moral behaviour means.

Darilian wrote:
This, of course, is a simplified version. Its actually a lot more complicated.

Yes.

BFoy wrote:
Hmmm, then why are we seeing such a hostile response (in my view). Maybe Lajos is interested in a philosophical discussion but isn't an expert. Castigating him discourages any discourse. Clearly Lajos' definition needs to be refined, we should help him do that not dismiss what he is saying out of hand.

Actually, a few people got the point I think, and I didn't read any really hostile reactions. And I do not think that the definitions need refinement. That's not their point.
(Oh, and by the way, I'm no expert indeed. My expertise is closer to philosophy of language than to ethics.)

Darilian wrote:
Unfortunately, his definition is flawed.

Is it?
Do you have objective criteria to judge definitions?
(Hah, now we're approaching what is my field of expertise.)

Darilian wrote:
Its the fact that he is arguing that ALL that can exist is subjective ethics, by overcounting the epistemological difficulties that modern Ethics faces today.

There is an interesting debate about that in meta-ethics indeed, but that's way too technical for this forum.

isaacc wrote:
Making things up on my own forces everyone else to first correct my erroneous assumptions even before a debate on merits is even attempted. It's tedious for everyone.

I didn't. I guess you missed the point. Sorry about that.
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Ken
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First - GAWD's gonna show up and beat you with his "fisking stick."

Lajos wrote:
You seem to interpret 'inherent' as some kind of objective quality. That's probably where the seeming (!) disagreement between us originates. Part of my point is that 'inherent' cannot be objective, because it implies irreducibility and therefore unconfirmability.
Hence, I think that we mostly agree, except in our chosen terminologies.


I believe you're correct. I do believe that members of a religious faith see the doctrine of their faith as "inherently good," but even if you accept that as a given, one's understanding of the correct ethical course for any given situation will be subjectively determined. Those with a religiously provide ethical or moral code may benefit from greater clarity (I don't know that many individuals who aren't religious codify their belief of what is right or wrong), but interpreting that code and translating it into action will still be an individual effort.

At least, that's my amateur philosopher's view of it.
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steve mizuno
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Just an observation, Lajos - I think that the society in which you're currently living might be one of the most rule-oriented ones in the known universe. Out of curiousity, did this have any influence on how you put together your OP?
 
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